visual essay

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Directions –


Have you ever heard the old adage that A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words? We are continually surrounded by visual images; images that we use to communicate thoughts, facts, emotions, meaning. Our ability to understand and make meaning of these images is referred to as Visual literacy, and it is an important element in the way that we understand our world today. Visual Essays articulate a visual narrative from images that might otherwise take lengthy passages of text to convey. Some text may be included, however, it is very brief and its purpose is to add context or descriptive bits of prose to guide the viewer to the intended meaning. Often, this can be accomplished with a descriptive title, or short caption. Tip: more is not necessarily better – it is about the relevance and meaning of your images, not about the quantity.


Visual essays help to tell a story, present an issue or provoke thoughtful reflection through pictures and images. They are often used to capture the human experience of social problems or powerful events that shape our society or world views, or to tell a personal story, or illustrate the way that we understand conditions of our fellow man, or our surrounding community or environment. Visual Essays may include one or more images. They are meant to convey in carefully selected images a narrative that might otherwise take many lines or paragraphs of text.

Your Assignment:

For your assignment this week, you will have the opportunity to demonstrate your visual literacy skills through the development and presentation of a Visual Essay of your own, and reflection upon those presented by your peers. Be sure that you review the instructions carefully and follow them fully. There are important aspects of the assignment that you need to adhere to.

Directions –

  1. Review info above for better understanding of project..
  2. Topic Choice:

    For this assignment you will have the opportunity to create your own Visual Essay, to capture your perception of one of the following aspects of aging (focus on the 65 or older population) in America, through photo images:

      • Aging and Poverty
      • Aging and Homelessness
      • Aging and Health Care Disparities
      • Health Risks of the Elderly
      • Healthy Aging (i.e., for older/aging adults)
  3. Photos:

    For this assignment, you will need to take (preferred method – make use of those smart phones!) or select a series of 6-8 photos that document your chosen topic from above related to Aging in America.

  4. It is preferred that you shoot all of your own photos for this project. If you are taking the photos in private settings or including human subjects, you must obtain written permission from your subject(s). Always protect the privacy and safety of your subjects!
  5. Take great care to be respectful and to avoid controversial images that could lead to negative stigmatization of photo subjects.
  6. You may use photos from published sources if you provide the appropriate citations and references, but it is still preferred that you provide at least some of your own photos.
  7. You may use a combination of your own photos and source photos (with proper citations).
  8. An important word of caution: You must document where you obtained the photos by providing source, photographer (if known) and publisher/website address. If you cannot do so, do not use them. If using personal photos, identify yourself as the photographer.
  9. [Title]. [Date of photograph (or date unknown, or “circa”)]. [Name of photographer (if known)]. [Complete source information if “borrowed” from Internet or published source]. Brief statement/caption about the significance of the photo (what does the picture say?).
  10. The Visual Essay
    • Use PowerPoint, and in addition to your photos, include the following:
    • A title slide that identifies the focus of your visual essay, your name, course name and number, and date
    • An Introduction slide that identifies the topic focus and briefly describes its significance in the United States (i.e., in America, XX number of elderly are homeless; the poverty rate for people over 65 in America is XX%; homeless elderly in America often fall between the cracks and of community safety nets, etc.)
    • A slide that “sets up” the visual essay – gives a brief overview of what the viewer will see as they click through the “slide show” of photos (i.e., the following slides depict the face of elder poverty in America; in the following slides you will see the reality of health care disparities faced by America’s elderly living in poverty; etc.)
    • A very brief wrap up/summary/statement slide (leave the viewer with a powerful statement and image that sums up your purpose for the visual essay)
    • A references slide (APA format)

      Remember, the emphasis of this assignment is on visual images – not text. The images should tell the story and make the point. You want to leave your audience with a lasting image in their mind about your topic. I will be looking for professional appearance, emotional appeal and a coherent representation of the topic through the images on the slides. Review the Visual Essay Presentation Rubric for an understanding of how this assignment will be graded (do not attach – I will provide).

  11. Completion of the assignment

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